French energy technology company Areva, best known for its work in the nuclear power industry, plans to develop a solar power business in South Africa, a senior executive said on Thursday.
This comes after Areva acquired US-based solar thermal company Ausra in February, to expand its renewable-energy business portfolio, which already included biomass-based power and offshore wind power generation.
Areva business development senior vice-president Tom Bartolomei told Engineering News Online at a French-South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast in Johannesburg, that the company was looking to tap into South Africa's growing renewable energy market and to also create a local industry.
"This drive is not just about deploying our technology in South Africa, we will be able to acquire at least 60% to 70% of materials and services locally.
"Solar power makes perfect sense in a geographical area that has a great solar resource, such as South Africa.
"Also, South Africa's regulatory framework is forthcoming and evolving, and we do not want to miss the opportunity to participate in the country's energy programme," said Bartolomei.
The South African government had committed itself to reduce emissions by 34% below the "business as usual" level by 2020, and 42% by 2025, at the signing of the Copenhagen Accord.
The government said that it would pursue an energy strategy that would meet urgent generation expansion while committing to a programme to enhance energy-efficiency measures and introducing renewable energy, as well as demand-side management.
Currently, the World Bank is also financing the Department of Environmental Affairs to develop a white paper that will shape future policy on renewable energy.
Bartolomei said that the global solar energy industry was showing a clear upwards trend, and added that the industry was expected to grow by 13% a year, after 2015.
Further, Areva projected that the market for engineering services around concentrating solar power would expand rapidly this decade, forecasting a 20% growth rate and an installed capacity of over 20 GW by 2020.
Areva Solar's core technology, the compact linear fresnel reflector solar collector and steam generation system, uses modular flat reflectors to focus the sun's heat onto elevated receivers, which consist of a system of tubes through which water flows. The concentrated sunlight boils the water in the tubes, generating high-pressure steam for direct use in power generation and industrial steam applications.
Unlike photovoltaic energy resources that immediately shut down during periods of transient cloud coverage, the solar steam generators retain heat, allowing for a more seamless integration with the electric grid.
Meanwhile, Areva had also put in two bids to build South Africa's nuclear capacity. The first, eas for the construction of a nuclear power plant with a generation capacity of between 3 000 MW and 3 500 MW and the second was for dealing with the preliminary elements relating to the potential construction of a whole fleet of nuclear power stations by 2025, with a combined generating capacity of about 20 000 MW.
Bartolomei commented that he believed that South Africa needed a "good mix of technologies," to assist the country with its power generation problems.